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Ten incarnations of Vishnu

  • Object:

    Scroll drawing

  • Place of origin:

    Andhra Pradesh (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1771 - ca. 1779 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour and gold on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by The Royal Asiatic Society of London

  • Museum number:

    IM.561-1924

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is a detail from a horizontal scroll-painting depicting Hindu deities. It is a Company painting (the name given to paintings made by Indian artists for the British in India). William Marsden, who served in Sumatra as an East India Company writer between 1771 and 1779, acquired it. In 1785 he established an East India Agency business in London and later became First Secretary to the Admiralty. He devoted himself to scholarly pursuits relating to Asia, and in 1783 he published a 'History of Sumatra'. He presented this scroll to the Royal Asiatic Society in 1828. In 1924 the Society gave it to the V&A.

Physical description

Company Painting depicting ten incarnations of Vishnu: the fish, turtle, boar, man-lion, dwarf, Rama with an axe, Rama with a bow, Rama with a plough, Vishnu as the Buddha, and Vishnu as a warrior on a white horse. Beneath each figure is an inscription in Telugu. South India, early 19th century.

Place of Origin

Andhra Pradesh (made)

Date

ca. 1771 - ca. 1779 (painted)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'1. The Fish denotes the fatal day / When Earth beneath the Waters lay. / Macha Awataram'
The fish incarnation of Vishnu (Matsya avatara)
Inscription; decoration; English; Roman; beneath figure

'2. Th'amphibious Turtle marks the time / When it again the shores could climb. / Koorma Awataram.'
The turtle incarnation of Vishnu (Kurma avatara)
Inscription; decoration; Beneath figure

'3. The Boar's an emblem of the God / Who raised again the mighty clod. / Waraha Awataram'
The boar incarnation of Vishnu (Varaha avatara)
Inscription; decoration; Beneath figure

'4. The Lion-king and savage trains / Now roam the woods, o[r] graze the [plains]. / Narasheem Awataram'
The man-lion incarnation of Vishnu (Narasimha avatara)
Inscription; decoration; Beneath figure

'5. Next [came the] Little Man's reign / Oe'r earth an[d wa]try' main / Wamana Awataram'
The dward incarnation of Vishnu (Vamana avatara)
Inscription; decoration; Beneath figure

'6. Ram with the Axe then takes his stand, / Fells the thick forests - clears the land. / Parasurama Awataram'
Rama with the Axe (Parasurama avatara)
Inscription; decoration; Beneath figure

'7. Ram with the Bow 'gainst tyrants fight[s] / And thus defends the people's rights. / Shreerama Awataram'
Rama with the bow (Rama avatara)
Inscription; decoration; Beneath figure

'8. Ram with the Plough turns up the soil, / And teaches man for food to toil. / Balarama Awataram'
Rama with the Plough (Balarama avatara)
Inscription; decoration; Beneath figure

'9. Buddha for Reformation came, / And formed a Sect well known to fame. / Boodha Awataram'
Vishnu as the Buddha (Buddha avatara).
Inscription; decoration; Beneath figure

'10. When Kalki mounts his milk white Steed, / Heav'n, Earth, and all will then recede! / Kalkeekawataram'
Vishnu as a warrior on a white horse (Kalki avatara)
Inscription; decoration; Beneath figure

Dimensions

Height: 26 cm, Width: 113 cm

Object history note

Lent by the Royal Asiatic Society of London to the India Museum. Transferred from the India Museum to South Kensington Museum in November 1879. Renumbered in 1924.

Descriptive line

Watercolour and gold on paper, Scroll drawing of ten incarnations of Vishnu, South India, early 19th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Archer, Mildred. 'Company Paintings : Indian Paintings of the British Period.' London: Victoria and Albert Museum; Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd. 1992. pp.22-24, ill. ISBN 0-944142-30-3

Materials

Paper; Watercolour

Techniques

Painted

Subjects depicted

Lion; Fish; Dwarf; Plough; Horse; Boar; Axe; Turtle; Bows (weapons)

Categories

Access to Images; Images Online; Indian Company Paintings; India Museum

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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